Politics and Legislation

Few Minds Are Changed by Arguments in Court

By Susan Saulny, The New York Times News Service | Report

The morning arguments before the Supreme Court had grown tense just as the lunch crowd was packing into the food court at a downtown Atlanta office complex to watch news coverage of the hearing.

Over a meal of fast food, Bebee Dillard, a cleaning business owner, could not have been more pleased with the conservative justices, who were asking tough questions about the constitutionality of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, the law intended to overhaul the nation’s health system. Ms. Dillard objected to the individual mandate — the central provision of the law that requires most Americans to obtain health insurance — and was pleased by the adversarial nature of the arguments.

“It’s the idea of being forced to do anything,” Ms. Dillard, 47, told a reporter……

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District Court Permanently Blocks Oklahoma Ultrasound Law, Expect A Supreme Court Battle

By Robin Marty, RH Reality Check | Report

The 10th Circuit Federal Court has just issued a permanent injunction on a 2010 Oklahoma law that would require all women terminating their pregnancies to first undergo a mandatory ultrasound. The news, which is no doubt welcome to the women in and around Oklahoma who will no longer have to endure the added financial stress and emotional pressure of an unwanted, medically-unnecessary ultrasound, also sets up what is likely to be the next big battle — this time, before the Supreme Court……

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Can the Brics create a new world order?

Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa seek a multipolar world – but some argue they’re bound by anti-Americanism

Today’s one-day annual summit of the so-called Brics countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – has received scant attention in the west. That may be because the grouping has achieved little in concrete terms since its inception in 2009. Critics deride it as a photo-op and talking shop.

But this neglect, or disdain, may also reflect the fact that the Brics, representing almost half the world’s population and about one-fifth of global economic output, pose an unwelcome challenge to the established world order as defined by the US-dominated UN security council, the IMF and the World Bank. The truth of the matter probably lies somewhere in-between. The five national leaders – presidents Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, Dmitri Medvedev of Russia, Hu Jintao of China and Jacob Zuma of South Africa and their host in Delhi, India’s prime minister Manmohan Singh – are not noted for iconoclastic radicalism.

Rousseff has been the most outspoken, insisting that developing countries must be protected from the global “tsunami” of cheap money, unleashed by the US and the EU in the wake of the financial crisis, that was rendering their exports less competitive. “We will defend our industry and prevent the methods developed countries use to escape from crisis resulting in the cannibalisation of emerging markets,” she said this month…..

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Economy

UK fuel-tanker drivers won’t strike over Easter

LONDON (AP) — A union representing British fuel tanker drivers on Friday ruled out the threat of strikes over Easter which had led to some panic-buying in parts of the country.

Unite, which represents around 2,000 tanker drivers, said it retains the right to call a strike if talks due to start next week break down.

The move came after the government had warned consumers to stock up at the pump ahead of any threatened strike, sending gasoline sales soaring as lines formed at gas stations.

In some parts of England the lines were so long that police ordered stations to close to ease congestion.

Britain’s Petrol Retailers Association said that gasoline sales were up more than 170 percent on Thursday, while diesel sales were up almost 80 percent…….

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Amidst the Deepest Slump since the Great Depression, Obama is Touting an “Economic Recovery”

by Barry Grey

While the United States remains mired in the deepest slump since the Great Depression, President Barack Obama is touting a modest improvement in employment over the past several months to boost his electoral prospects in November.

The three-month period from December through February has, according to the Labor Department, seen a net gain of 744,000 jobs, the largest for any three-month stretch since 2006. The official jobless rate has fallen from 9.1 percent in September to 8.3 percent in February.

It is necessary to place these gains within the context of the catastrophic collapse in employment that followed the Wall Street crash of 2008, which has left the US economy with 5 million fewer jobs than at the official start of the recession in December 2007. At the height of the crash, US businesses were cutting more than 744,000 jobs every month.

While the US economy added 335,000 net new manufacturing jobs in 2010 and 2011 combined, it lost 1.6 million manufacturing jobs between January 2008 and March 2009, a reduction of 10 percent. The current level of 12 million manufacturing jobs is down 7.5 million from its peak in 1979.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, speaking Monday at a business conference in Washington DC, was notably cautious about the recent upturn in employment figures. He suggested that the improvement in the labor market could not be sustained at the current rate of economic growth.

“A significant portion of the improvement in the labor market has reflected a decline in layoffs rather than an increase in hiring,” he said, adding, “Conditions remain far from normal, as shown, for example, by the high level of long-term unemployment and the fact that jobs and hours remain well below pre-crisis peaks, even without adjusting for growth in the labor force.”

What Obama and his supporters in the trade union apparatus conceal is the basis for the modest growth in jobs in general, and manufacturing jobs in particular. The president hinted at the question when he spoke last month at the Master Lock factory in Milwaukee. “Our job as a nation,” he declared, “is to do everything we can to make the decision to insource more attractive for more companies.”….

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Wars and Rumors of War

USS Enterprise Prepares To Cross Suez Canal, Days Away From Anchor In Arabian Sea

Much noise has been emanating out of Israel vis-a-vis its Iranian intentions, with some opinions suggesting an attack is imminent, while others claiming that Israel will ultimately defer to D.C., and postpone an attack, and the eventual gasoline price shock, until after the election. The truth is nobody but a few select generals, knows: in warfare surprise is the key factor, so outright flashing invasion intentions is usually an indicator of just the opposite. That said, the most recent update that Azerbaijan has granted Israel access to its airbases along the Iran border is hardly encouraging for Nobel peace prize winners and other pacifists. Yet as we have been claiming for the past two weeks, ever since the launch of CVN-65 on its last tour of duty, the true catalyst, if any, will be the arrival of the USS Enterprise at what may well be its last place of anchor – somewhere in the Arabian Sea, just off the side of CVN 70 and CVN 72 both of which are patrolling the Straits of Hormuz. And as the map from Stratfor below shows, the Enterprise is about to cross the Suez Canal, from which point it will be at most days from entering its catalyst location, namely supporting the Israel air force. Just because the US has never had 3 concurrent aircraft carriers in proximity to Iran before…….

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Drone strikes in Yemen soar as U.S. stokes ‘secret war’

America has dramatically stepped up its “secret war” in Yemen with the U.S. ordering dozens of drone attacks on al-Qaida hotspots, which have also killed scores of civilians.

With the backing of Yemen’s fragile government, President Barack Obama has authorized a rapid increase in attacks since last May, with 26 incidents recorded.

The pace appears to be accelerating, with nine attacks so far this year and at least five this month, including a strike last week near the terrorist hotbed of Zinjibar. Up to 30 militants were killed in three separate missile strikes on the town, witnesses said.

Nationwide the figures are comparable to those in Pakistan, where America has struck on 10 occasions this year, despite a fierce public reaction.

Research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism at London’s City University has found that as many as 516 people have been killed in the Yemen attacks – mostly suspected members of al-Qaida’s local ally al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). As many as 104 were civilians……

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Cyber Space

Microsoft censoring Windows Live Messenger chats under guise of fighting piracy

By Madison Ruppert

Piracy seems to be the favorite excuse nowadays when it comes to censorship, destroying internet freedom, and even absurdly large domestic digital surveillance operations.

Now Microsoft, one of the world’s largest corporations in the technology sector, has been actively monitoring and censoring conversations on their Windows Live Messenger program.

Even more disturbing, Microsoft now admits that they have been censoring conversations between users on Windows Live Messenger for quite a while now.

They are blocking certain links from being shared between users, one of which includes the Pirate Bay, one of the most popular and well-known file sharing websites on earth.

Interestingly, they are not only blocking the torrent tracker section of the website which enables peer-to-peer file sharing, they are also blocking a page which is devoted to completely legal file sharing.

Recently popular file sharing news site Torrent Freak discovered the block lists being used by Windows Live Messenger. Interestingly, they found that the Pirate Bay was blocked by the messenger service while other torrent tracking websites which offer the exact same copyrighted content were not.

Today Raw Story discovered that in addition to the Pirate Bay’s main page, Microsoft is also blocking something called “The Promo Bay.”

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Articles of Interest

Patent awarded for “behavioral recognition” surveillance software system

Madison Ruppert, Contributor
Activist Post

The American surveillance state is becoming increasingly advanced, expansive and capable of processing huge amounts of data at blinding speeds.

Now Behavioral Recognition Systems, Inc., also known as BRS Labs, has developed an artificial intelligence-based system which supposedly can automatically recognize human behavior.

Technology which seems similar on the surface already exists and is being used on surveillance platforms like the “Intellistreets” street lights. These street lights, which are outfitted with a great deal of surveillance equipment, are reportedly capable of monitoring activity and telling the difference between certain behaviors while also being able to tell the difference between humans and animals. This technology could be used to enforce curfews, track the movement of individuals, and supposedly spot fights and other crimes…..

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Robotic Sand Flea Jumps 30 Feet

Analysis by Jesse Emspak

……The Sand Flea — along with the throwable Scout XT robot — is headed to Afghanistan, where it will be tested in real-world conditions.

Afghanistan is becoming a hotbed of robotic soldiering, as thousands have already been deployed there. The numbers are even higher when one considers the unmanned aerial vehicles used. Land-bound robots do things like bomb disposal and reconnaissance, reducing the risk to the troops in the field.

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Read the FBI Memo: Agents Can ‘Suspend the Law’

By Spencer Ackerman and Noah Shachtman

The FBI once taught its agents that they can “bend or suspend the law” as they wiretap suspects. But the bureau says it didn’t really mean it, and has now removed the document from its counterterrorism training curriculum, calling it an “imprecise” instruction. Which is a good thing, national security attorneys say, because the FBI’s contention that it can twist the law in pursuit of suspected terrorists is just wrong.

“Dismissing this statement as ‘imprecise’ is a rather unsatisfying response given the very precise lines Congress and the courts have repeatedly drawn between what is and is not permissible, even in counterterrorism cases, over the past decade,” Steve Vladeck, a national-security law professor at American University, says. “It might technically be true that the FBI has certain authorities when conducting counterterrorism investigations that the Constitution otherwise forbids, but that’s good only so far as it goes.”….

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See Image of Memo Here

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